The last time Dodge won the NASCAR Cup title, in 1975, Ralph Gilles was playing with Matchbox cars on his mother's living room floor.
Even then, Gilles, now the president and CEO of the SRT Brand and senior vice president of design at Chrysler Group, was a NASCAR fan.
"I used to watch NASCAR as a kid," Gilles said. "I loved it."
Considering that it had been 37 seasons since the American automaker won its last Cup title, Dodge's imminent departure from NASCAR is bittersweet -- particularly after crowning a champion as popular as Brad Keslowski and watching team owner Roger Penske's successful quest to reach the pinnacle of stock car racing.
As the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway last weekend neared, reality set in for Gilles.
"I had flashbacks the last couple of weeks (to) when I sat on the stools down in North Carolina with Roger (Penske) three years ago describing what we were going to do," Gilles said. "The plan, so to speak. Two-car team going forward, a young team...